Fermented vegetables may seem like the new kids on the block but in actual fact their popularity dates way back. The modernisation of food preservation, refrigeration and transportation resulted in an abandonment of fermented foods. However, thankfully some cultures continue to adhere to their traditional diets and therefore include fermented vegetables daily. Furthermore, the Western world has witnessed a healthy come back of fermented vegetables, which I believe will continue strong into the future!
What are Fermented Vegetables?
The two most well know types of fermented vegetables are sauerkraut and kimchi. Fermented vegetables are essentially made via adding salt to vegetables (such as cabbage) and allowing the process of lactic acid fermentation and growth of friendly bacteria over time to create a nutrient dense ‘condiment.’ You can purchase fermented vegetables in health food shops or simply try making your own. The benefit of making your own is that you can be creative with flavourings. Adding turmeric, ginger, pepper or herbs such as dill can help boost the nutrient content, anti-inflammatory potential and not to mention flavour profile of fermented vegetables. Furthermore, when thinking fermented vegetables we don’t have to be limited to cabbage, carrots and beetroots amongst other vegetables, make for great fermenting!
What are the health benefits?
Fermentation can increase protein quality and uptake of mood supportive B vitamins, magnesium, and zinc. Accordingly, research is finally starting to unveil gut health as being the key to optimal physical and mental health. A healthy gut can influence all areas of health including hormone balance, mood, skin health and metabolic health. And we now know, fermented vegetables are rich in good bacteria species Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
Essentially by adding fermented vegetables to your daily diet, you may favourably change the environment in your gut, which can positively influence many areas of health. Specifically, inclusion of such good bacteria has been shown to reduce gut inflammation, modify the body’s response to stress and because most of our immune cells reside in the gut, help to improve immunity. Furthermore, fermented foods show promise for weight loss and/or maintenance assistance and anti-aging due to their ability to increase your body’s antioxidant supply.
How can I include fermented vegetables in the diet?
My favourite ways with fermented vegetables are:
- Straight from the jar as a snack
- Added to salads
- On top of rice cakes with avocado as a snack
- Topped on boiled eggs on toast
- Added to burgers/wraps/sandwiches
- Served alongside spicy curries
- Used in replace of relishes
Are there any other fermented foods?
If fermented vegetables don’t tantalise your tastebuds, have no fear, there are other forms of fermented foods, which also offer a similar host of benefits:
Kefir: fermented milk/yoghurt, the good bacteria feed off starch and sugar in the milk to create lactic acid and preserve milk. Kefir has a slightly sour taste but can be used in replace of regular milk and/or yoghurt.
Miso paste: made from fermented soybeans and can be used as a stock, to make soup or as a marinade for meat.
Kombucha: a drink made from fermenting sweet black tea.
Tempeh: similar to tofu but made from fermented soybeans.
For a nutritional boost to your diet, try my Red and Green Sauerkraut and Blueberry Kombucha Tea:
Selhub, E et al 2014, ‘Fermented foods, microbiota, and mental health: ancient practice meets nutritional psychiatry,’ J Physiol Anthropol, Vol. 33, No. 1, pp. 2.